Things have progressed in my fight, battle, request? I have no idea now what the right word to describe what I’ve been working towards. You’ve read it, the pilgrimage to the place I am now. WOW! What a ride. Now my whole family is signed up for a twelve-week ASL course starting in two to three weeks. When Fiona was born and I received all the literature from the National Institute for Newborn hearing screening I knew immediately that I wanted total communication for Fiona, that I wanted us to learn sign language, I didn’t know the difference between ASL and SEE sign, really. In the Early Start program we were in we did TC. I never expected Fiona’s dad or brother to need to learn sign. I knew I would no matter what and I would make sure Fiona knew sign, but never really expected other members of my family to, or my friends.
When I dropped Fiona off at camp this morning and the music was blaring, and her friend wasn’t at camp yet, Fiona looked so unhappy. I felt so bad. I told the camp counselors and they turned down the radio, I felt bad suggesting this too, like changing things for one person when everyone else was fine with the loud music. I told the camp counselor, just so you know Fiona won’t be able to hear anything when it’s this loud. I tried to get Fiona to talk to another little girl who looked as lost and uncomfortable as Fiona. But it was just too loud. I thought, if Fiona was fluent in ASL and had an interpreter she wouldn’t be totally isolated unable to communicate or make new friends. That’s crazy! Fiona was in a position where she was surrounded by 60 plus kids, all having fun, dancing, laughing, talking, but Fiona was unable to communicate with anyone. Theoretically Fiona could have gone and tried to play with some kids, but if they said anything Fiona wouldn’t hear them. It’s hard for kids to make new friends without a disability.
I’ve often heard people saying ASL is the first language for deaf people. Regarding Fiona I’ve heard from her teachers and other experts that English is Fiona’s first language. Because she wore hearing aids and learned English, (with sign language back-up always, but it was SEE sign) that English is Fiona’s first language. But if everyday there are multiple situations where Fiona can’t hear correctly with her hearing aid, but if she was fluent in sign language and there was at least one other person fluent in sign language always Fiona would never be without a way to engage. So, in a way, even for Fiona who has a hearing aid and residual hearing on her right ear, who spent the first five years wearing two hearing aids and is at grade level when it comes to English comprehension, sign language is the only way Fiona will have access to full communication consistently. We can’t count on the hearing aids or the environment to be one that lets Fiona have full access to language.